THE POLE AND AMERICA
La Sale then steered to the west, and passed by, without perceiving it, without deigning even to attend to certain signs which he was asked to observe, the mouth of the Mississippi. When he perceived his mistake, and entreated M. de Beaujeu to turn back, the latter would no longer consent. La Sale, seeing that he could make no impression upon the contradictory mind of his companion, decided to disembark his men and his provisions in the Bay of St. Bernard. Yet, in this very last act, Beaujeu manifested an amount of culpable ill-will, which did as little honour to his judgment as to his patriotism. Not only was he unwilling to land all the provisions, under the pretext that certain of them being at the bottom of the hold, he had no time to change his stowage, but further he gave shelter on board his own ship to the master and crew of the transport, laden with the stores, utensils, and implements necessary for a new establishment, people whom everything seems to convict of having purposely cast their vessel upon shore. At the same time, a number of savages took advantage of the disorder caused by the shipwreck of the transport, to plunder everything on which they could lay their hands. Nevertheless, La Sale, who had the talent of never appearing depressed by misfortune, and who found in his own genius resources adapted to the circumstances of the case, ordered the works of the establishment to be begun. In order to give courage to his companions, he more than once took part with his own hands in the work; but very slow progress was made, in consequence of the ignorance of the workmen. Struck with the resemblance of the language and habits of the Indians of these parts to those of the Mississippi, La Sale was very soon persuaded that he was not far distant from that river, and made several excursions in order to approach it. But, if he found a country beautiful and fertile, he did not make progress towards what he was in search of. He returned each time to the fort more gloomy and more harsh; and this was not the way to restore calm to spirits embittered by sufferings and the inutility of their efforts. Grain had been sown; but scarcely any came up for want of rain, and what had sprung up was soon laid waste by the savages and the deer. The hunters who wandered far from the camp were massacred by the Indians, and sickness found an easy prey in men overwhelmed with ennui, disappointment, and misery. In a short time, the number of the colonists fell to thirty-seven. At length, La Sale resolved to try a last effort to reach the Mississippi, and in descending the river to seek help from the nations with which he had made alliance. He set out on January 12th, 1687, with his brother, his two nephews, two missionaries, and twelve colonists. He was approaching the country of the Shawnees, when, in consequence of an altercation between one of his nephews and three of his companions, these latter assassinated the young man and his servant during their sleep, and resolved immediately to do the same with the chief of the enterprise. De la Sale, uneasy at not seeing his nephew return, set out to seek him on the morning of the 19th, with Father Anastase. The assassins, seeing him approach, lay in ambush in a thicket, and one of them shot him in the head, and stretched him on the ground stark dead. Thus perished Cavelier de la Sale, "a man of a capacity," says Father Charlevoix, "of a largeness of mind, of a courage and firmness of soul, which might have led him to the achievement of something great, if with so many great qualities, he had known how to master his gloomy and atrabilious disposition, and to soften the severity or rather the harshness of his nature...." Many calumnies had been spread abroad against him; but it is necessary so much the more to be on our guard against all these malevolent reports "as it is only too common to exaggerate the defects of the unfortunate, to impute to them even some which they had not, especially when they have given occasion for their misfortune, and have not known how to make themselves beloved. What is sadder for the memory of this celebrated man, is that he has been regretted by few persons, and that the ill-success of his undertakings—only of his last—has given him the air of an adventurer, among those who judge only by appearances. Unhappily, these are usually the most numerous, and in some degree the voice of the public."
|Assassination of La Sale.|
We have but little to add to these last wise words. La Sale knew not how to obtain pardon for his first success. We have related subsequently by what concurrence of circumstances his second enterprise miscarried. He died, the victim it may be said, of the jealousy and malevolence of the Chevalier de Beaujeu. It is to this slight cause that we owe the failure to found in America a powerful colony, which would very soon have been found in a condition to compete with the English establishments.
We have narrated the beginning of the English colonies. The events which took place in England were highly favourable to them. The religious persecutions, the revolutions of 1648 and 1688, furnished numerous recruits, who, animated by an excellent spirit, set themselves to work, and transported to the other side of the Atlantic the arts, the industry, and in a short time the prosperity, of the mother country. Very soon, the immense forests which covered Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Carolina, fell beneath the hatchet of the "Squatter," and the soil became cleared, while the hunters of the woods, driving back the Indians, made the interior of the country better known, and prepared the work of civilization.